Spotlight Society

This expo in Delhi features minimalist art by three women artists

Neha Lavingia’s Sipping in   | Photo Credit: Art Motif

In a city of chaos and cacophony it is always a relief to rest one’s eyes on artwork that is minimal and provides a counterpoint to the over-stimulus of the city. Gallery Art Motif, located on the fourth floor of a building in a leafy lane of Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave, affords that opportunity.

One hears only the cooing of pigeons while the buttery sunlight bounces off the white walls of the gallery, now playing host to three women artists who have chosen to express their musings through minimalism.

Madhvi Subrahmanian’s Mappa Mundi (Green)

Madhvi Subrahmanian’s Mappa Mundi (Green)   | Photo Credit: Art Motif

Visual haiku

Neha Lavingia, Sheetal Gattani and Madhvi Subrahmanian form the dulcet trio of the exhibition ‘Drawings, Paintings and Ceramics’, three voices that are meditative and thought-provoking without being verbose.

The Mumbai-based Sheetal Gattani is known for her large abstract canvases, but has been experimenting in the last three years with paper. “My tryst with paper happened at a drawing camp called ‘Drawing Box’ in Nagothane, Maharashtra. I was given a piece of white paper, which I normally do not work with — I usually go from black to white even for my canvases. However, I wanted to experiment with white paper and so I began drawing and scribbling with a blade,” says Gattani, a very process-oriented artist. She covered the resultant work with charcoal and then brushed it away. The charcoal that stuck in the grooves of the blade-marks became the delineated image.

Sheetal Gattani’s Ten

Sheetal Gattani’s Ten   | Photo Credit: Art Motif

Her compositions are made up of largely horizontal and vertical grids. “It is not my intention to evoke architectural edifices, but I was doing urbanscapes before this, so they could have subconsciously crept in,” she says of her non-linear works.

Ahmedabad-based Neha Lavingia’s small-format works may be described as visual haiku. They speak of the precise, the poetics of the minimal. “In the push, pull and shove of life, how often do we take the time to stand, to stare, to wonder, to feel, to experience?” asks the 38-year-old artist.

Her protagonist is a little bird that finds itself in a forest, sipping water from a stream or sitting on a pile of bricks. Her works, ‘On a pile of bricks’, ‘Sipping in’ or ‘Fortress’ are beguilingly unassuming. But it takes much restraint and precision to evoke such a minimal yet rich visual experience.

“Neha’s works have to be seen to experience the intimate delicacy bordering on abstraction that is on offer in their miniature scale,” says Indrapramit Roy who mentored Lavingia at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Baroda.

Madhvi Subrahmanian, another Mumbai artist, is known for her larger-than-life ceramics that emulate the human form. They evoke a gamut of textures, shapes and shades, but she has scaled down the size of some her works and those are the ones that fit in perfectly with this show.

Mapping the mind

She continues her exploration of and reflection on the urban environment and its disconnect with nature, as she had done in her recent solo show, ‘Mapping Memory’. ‘Mappa Mundi’ maps the routes

Madhvi Subrahmanian’s The Window Collective

Madhvi Subrahmanian’s The Window Collective   | Photo Credit: Art Motif

of her daily journeys while ‘Dilli’ is constructed with cones as markers of time. Her work titled ‘Blue Print’ juxtaposes the city map with a house, directing attention to the human desire for congregation and dwelling.

The ‘Window’ series explores the key architectural component that gives a building’s inhabitants the connection to the world outside.

The works of the three artists are united by their architectural feel and their quietness. While Minimalism as a movement was primarily dominated by male artists (as was painting itself), in the early 1960s artists like the late Nasreen Mohamedi and New York-based Zarina Hashmi created a space for women artists to experiment with minimalism. Mohamedi’s retrospective at The Met Breuer in New York created waves among the cognoscenti.

The spartan nature of her straight lines and grids said much more than daubs of paint could. Her work unwittingly broke several assumptions about ‘women artists’.

It is generally assumed that women paint decorative canvases and dwell only on feminine subjects. While this might be true of many women artists, several male artists too create decorative and autobiographical works.

Gender does not and should not decide the stylistic domain of any artist. One would be best advised to ignore the gender of the artist and enjoy the art, given that it is a universal language that urges us to uncomplicate our lives and go for the simple.

ON SHOW: ‘Drawings, Paintings and Ceramics’ till February 24, Gallery Art Motif, New Delhi

The writer is a critic-curator by day, and a creative writer and visual artist by night. When in the mood, she likes to serenade life with a guitar and a plate of Khao Suey.

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Printable version | Jun 9, 2021 3:01:19 AM |

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